John squeezed Molly’s forearm with a “be right back” look and left her at the bar. She saw that he had made eye contact with the bartender so she knew she would not be alone long. She followed his glance and saw the woman behind the bar flowing toward her. Her eyes cut left and right on the way seeing which of her charges might be ready for another, who was low and who might want….anything.
Compared to herself-and that’s the way Molly measured all women-the bartender was long and lean as a leopard. Tight jeans hugged her hips below a flash of flat midriff which was covered above the navel by a white silky tank top layered under a weathered denim vest.
Tattoos sleeved her bare left arm, circling and curling from the wrist to the shoulder and across her shoulder blade. Looked like leaves from down the bar but as she got closer Molly could make out that they were vines and entwined with the vines a bright multi-colored snake circled her bicep climbing seemingly toward her head. Her right arm-closest to Molly-was clear below the elbow but above, there was another snake. This one glistening black and wrapped.
“I’m Corrine”, she smiled reaching a fist across the bar.
“Molly”, she answered with a quick fist bump.
Now in front of her, Molly noticed another tattoo. This was a necklace-looked like a thin leather strip-circling around her neck and crawling across her collarbones just low enough so any shirt would cover it. Centered on the brown strip, hanging in the center of her breast plate was a tiny paddle-tiny but obvious for what it was. Deep blue outlines-highlighted a burnished gold wooden color-with three holes dotted in the center.
Molly stared for a moment then realized it could look like she was ogling the woman’s breasts so she lifted her gaze northward to Corrine’s laughing green eyes.
“Welcome to The Club, Molly. What can I get you?”
To drink? Molly had given it no thought…To avoid looking like a stammering, staring dunce she turned the question back “What do you like?”
“Me?” she tilted her head slightly as if thinking, “I’m a whisky girl. Bourbon specifically.”
“OK-make me something. Surprise me.”
Corrine’s slight head tilt became a smiling wink. “I’m sure I can do that.”
Molly watched the woman work-watched her hands move quickly and surely. Ice in the martini glass to cool it, ice in the tall mixing glass, then a thick draught of bourbon followed by a liquor she didn’t recognized. She, of course, flipped a mixing spoon into her hand and stirred the drink quickly but carefully all the while maintaining a lively patter with the folks to Molly’s left and right. Molly realized she was being introduced around…”John’s friend”….”our newest friend…” and she nodded smiled and shook the hands offered. She caught or remembered no names.
Corrine’s smile was quick, wide and open-then small and pursed-then wide again, expressing all she needed to express wordlessly. Her raven hair flowed around her shoulders as she whipped her head around following all the conversations in her circle.
She tossed the ice out of the cooled martini glass and strained the drink into it. She presented it in front of Molly and with a slight flourish swished a large dark cherry into the glass.
“Black Manhattan”, she said.
The drink was dark befitting its name and seemed to pulse behind the droplets that ran down the outside of the glass. Molly imagined the cherry as the heart beating life into this new being that had been created for her. And because its creator was standing before her in anticipation, Molly raised the glass to her lips and allowed the cool darkness to flow into her mouth. The heat filled her throat and rolled through her chest while the sweetness lingered on her tongue.
“Wow”, Molly said genuinely surprised. “That’s wonderful!”
“Thought you’d like it.”
Molly hadn’t been sure. She was a gin and tonic, white wine sort. To say this dark liquor was a departure was an understatement but well in keeping with the rest of her day.
Corrine was still standing in front of her with her hands corralling the drink. She seemed to be leaning in a little…searching.
“Oh, I’m sorry…” Molly allowed herself to be a tad flustered reaching for her purse.
“No-don’t worry about it.” He hand covered Molly’s with a warm pat. It was-contrary to what you’d expect given what she was doing behind the bar-warm and dry. And comfortably strong. “John’s orders. We are all at your service tonight.” She looked around the bar. “I’ll be back to check on you. Enjoy.”
Molly watched her walk away and without meaning to-at least at first-let her eyes be drawn to the contours of her perfectly sculpted ass rippling under jeans that could have been painted on. Then she caught herself and took a deep sip of her drink.
A small unassuming guy with a shaved head and earing slid into the spot to her left and began to speak to her. The music was starting to pump and hearing what he was saying was difficult. She leaned toward him smiling and realized that he was asking her to dance. Something about he knew the DJ and could get him to play whatever she wanted. She kept her smile and shrugged that she wasn’t much of a dancer. He persisted and leaned in noticing that her glass was empty. Before he could offer to buy her one, Connie swooped in with another perfectly made cocktail that she clapped on the bar before her.
“Come on Tommy, give her a break. She’s new here-let her get acclimated.”
He smiled and bowed with his palms up as if in supplication, “Acclimate away” he said and drifted off toward the dance floor.
“He’s harmless”, she said smiling. “Nice actually-works here…” she whirled and went back down the bar.
“Thanks!” yelled Molly to her retreating back trying not to let her eyes slide down to her retreating backside. She smiled and shook her head quickly as if to clear her vision and her thoughts. What was with her tonight? She did not usually feel comfortable among strangers, let alone a whole room of them but here she was. It was a real mix, this bunch-from fashionably torn $200 jeans to khakis and polos to a couple in understated but unmistakable leather.
She felt someone slide in beside her and turned to see John. She smiled widely and punched him in the arm. “Where have you been?” she asked.
“Mingling”, he answered returning the smile.
“Had to see a few folks…Corrie been taking care of you?”
“She’s something alright. What do you have here?” He reached for her glass and sipped.
“Oh, that’s good.”
“What are you dinking?” Molly asked but before he could answer Corrine appeared in front of them with a cocktail that she sat in front of John.
“John’s an Old Fashion guy…at least in his drinks”, she told Molly as a loud aside and moved away again.
“Thank you…” he called after her as Molly stole a glance at her retreating backside. Her glance settled there a beat too long and John busted her with a smile. “Enjoying the view, are we?” Molly blushed hotly as John laughed. “I’ll never tell…”
By 11:00 the dance floor had filled up as had most of the room. Corrine was joined by two other bartenders to help with what had become a constant crush of people. One was the Tommy who had hit on her-he winked and gave her a wave-and a tall blonde woman with a pony tail and splash of freckles.
Waitresses carried trays of drinks to the tables against the wall and to the game room in back-with more tables and a couple of pool tables and dartboards. It was a dizzying crush of people and activity made more so by the fact that Molly was starting to feel the drinks and probably didn’t need the one Tommy had just set in front of her.
She and John talked past midnight with Corrine taking advantage of her help to linger with them a little. With subtle exchanged smiles over the rim of the glass she even sipped a little at Molly’s drink knowing that she was probably a tad over her limit. “I’ll try to catch up with you….”
Corrine’s shift ended at midnight and she was just getting ready to leave the bar to the other two when a crash back by the pool table rose above the general din. And as always happened since high school cafeteria, a round of mock applause from the surrounding patrons let everyone know that someone had dropped a tray of glassware or, heaven forbid, drinks. Molly saw one of the security guys moving back there with a broom and shovel.
Then, just as the cheer in back seemed to be fading, it morphed into a chant-low and scattered at first with one or two voices then rose to a cheer: “Corrie! Corrie! Corrie!” The Corrie in question, leaning against the bar with John and Molly, smiled slyly. “Duty calls!” she said and headed up the bar.
Molly thought she had to go back and help with the clean-up but Corrine stopped at the cash register and reached into the dark shelf below it. Her hand emerged clutching a paddle that looked like the model of the tattoo around her neck. It was around two feet long, burnished light brown-almost golden-with three holes running down the center.
The denizens at the bar cheered when they saw it and joined in the “Corrie” chant. For her part, Corrine held the paddle high like the sword Excalibur just pulled from the stone. The chant for her grew louder as she moved to the back pumping the paddle up in the air like a drum major’s baton. Wide-eyed, Molly grabbed John’s wrist.
He smiled, “Poor waitress…”
“She’s going to paddle her? Right back there? In front of everybody?”
“You want to watch?” John asked.
She was pinned in her seat; frozen there by the block of ice that had seemed to settle deep in her stomach. Did she really want to see what was going to happen back there? Yes, of course she wanted to go see. But she didn’t want John to know that she wanted to see. Was she that drunk? She looked at him in confusion but he read her eyes pretty easily.
“Come on”, he said grabbing her wrist.
The crowd made room for them as they slid there way along the back wall to the game room. The room wasn’t exactly spinning for Molly as she feared it would when she got off the stool, but it was a little off kilter. Whether that was because of the drinks or the crazy buzz she was feeling in her stomach and below, she couldn’t say.
The crowd had cleared a spot back in the corner of the game room beyond the pool tables where the unlucky waitress was standing, her eyes studying the floor. The security guy had already swept up the glass and Corrine was brandishing the paddle as if it was a gavel at an auction.
“How many?” she called out.
“Ten!” came an answer.
“Ten?!” the waitress looked up, stricken. “They were empties!”
Corrine pointed the paddle at the guy who had suggested ten. “I’ll give her ten if you come up here and take ten yourself. Whattaya say?”
He smiled and waved her off amid hoots from his table.
“Nine!” someone called out. “Eight!” came another.
“Eight-nine…You don’t have many friends back here, do you Meagan?”
Meagan looked around with a slightly exaggerated pout. She was smaller than Corrine-about Molly’s size-but a little thicker. Wider in the hips and across the bottom which might be an advantage here. The crowd kept yelling out numbers-high numbers-and Molly, in her state was having trouble seeing who in the mob was yelling what. Meagan was looking around too, her tight blond curls bobbing left and right as if looking for the winning bidder. Finally, Corrine raised the paddle above her head and the mob quieted.
“I was going to give her four…” there was a grumbling and one “only four?” from the floor. “But you are particularly blood thirsty tonight. You want your pound of Meagan flesh tonight don’t you?”
“So I’ll give her five!”
“FIVE!” the crowd assented. “Five! Five! Five!”
Clearly relishing her role in the drama, Corrine pumped the paddle to the chant of the crowd. They settled quickly when she turned to the waitress. Molly was sucking air in little gasps. The crowd was obviously not new to this sort of show but she didn’t know what to expect from one minute to the next.
The girl turned away from the room to face a chair that had been placed against the wall. She bent over the back placing both hands on the seat. Her jeans stretched tightly across her ample bottom. She arched her back, presenting herself further, and waited.
If Molly was expecting some kind of stylized pantomime of a paddling that you might see on stage in a play she was disabused of that notion quickly. Corrine stepped back-measured once with a pat on the girl’s bottom-then swung hard. Molly jumped when the paddle landed with a loud “CRACK!” John, standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders, squeezed gently. The crowd cheered the swat.
At impact Meagan had raised on her toes but settled back just in time to absorb the second swat. “Two” a couple had called out. Again-up on the toes and back down. The third swat cracked right across the center of her backside and she bounced on her heels a bit and broke her knees just a tad. Corrine gave her a moment to gather herself then delivered the fourth to loud cheers.
“Now”, Corrine addressed the mob. “She would be done now. Poor Meagan and her bruised bottom would be free to go…But no. You wanted MORE!” her eyes flashed and her teeth gleamed as she spun slowly taking in the whole room, obviously enjoying herself. “So this…” she settled back into position “this last swat, is not on my conscience. This is for you…..ANIMALS!” She smiled wickedly and stepped into the swing.
The paddle landed with a loud “CRACK!” that was drowned out by the cheers of the crowd. Meagan jumped up reaching back with both hands to clasp her burning backside to general applause. She hopped in a circle with an exaggerated pout pushing her overly red lips. Her eyes glistened and her cheeks were flushed a bright pink. Which made Molly wonder for a quick unbidden second what her other cheeks looked like.
Corrine pointed around the room with the paddle. “Don’t forget to tip your waitresses. They work hard for you….or else.”
John turned Molly around to head back to their seats at the bar keeping her hands on her shoulders. She was grateful for his touch and steadying presence as the room spun slowly left to right. She dragged her hand on the paneled wall as they moved along to steady things a little. “What do you think?” he asked in her ear. How could she explain what she felt? The butterflies in her stomach had turned into eagles, she was sure she was wet between her legs and her knees trembled.
“Wow…” was all she could manage.
When they got back to their seats Corrine had collected her cash drawer and tips. Her night was over. “Give me a few minutes to get this straight and we’ll get out of here.”
We? Molly thought. Molly knew that she was too tipsy to drive and assumed that John or a cab would be taking her home but Corrine was coming with them? Her chest tightened in a good way. She sat back at her seat and watched the room swell around her until Corrine joined them.
“Come”, she said and they slipped around the back of the bar and out a side door. Molly was happy to be lead through a dim storage room full of boxes and broken chairs and out a security door into a dark alley where John’s car was secreted behind a dumpster. They bundled Molly into the back seat and and jumped up front immediately talking about where to go eat.
“Paddling always gives me an appetite”, she joked.
“You really gave it to her”, Molly piped up from the back. “That had to hurt.”
“Oh, it hurt alright”, she answered, letting it go at that.
“Meagan’s the kind that if she doesn’t get spanked in public every so often she gets a little squirrelly…” John filled in.
“A bit of an exhibitionist”, said Corrine eyeing Molly intently in the rear view mirror. “As we all are, I suppose.”
“Plus”, said John, “That little performance probably netted her an extra hundred bucks in tips which is no small thing for a single mom trying to raise two kids.”
“A hundred bucks?”
“More”, said Corrine, “If I made her take her pants down.”
Molly caught Corrine’s eyes in the mirror and searched for a hint that she was kidding. Their eyes locked as Molly slid down into the plush leather seat. Corrine’s lidded eyes were the last things she remembered as she slipped off to sleep.